(Photos: 20th-century wall paintings at the Church of St Martin of Tours at Bilborough in Nottinghamshire, winner of the 2015 John Betjeman Award)
The John Betjeman award is given to celebrate excellence in the conservation and repair of places of worship of any faith in England and Wales, although cathedrals are not eligible. It recognises and rewards the highest standards of conservation craftsmanship and the winning project is publicised as an example to others of good practice. The award is made for specific repair to, or conservation of, a single element of a church’s fabric, fitting or furnishing and is given to the place of worship rather than to any individual associated with the work. It celebrates the project, the building and the community that cares for it. Read more about the 2014 winners in The SPAB Magazine (autumn 2014 edition) or download the article.
Sensitive conservation work to two 20th-century wall paintings at the Church of St Martin of Tours at Bilborough in Nottinghamshire has won this year’s award. The murals are the work of war artist Evelyn Gibbs (1905 -1991). The SPAB has also announced a commendation for repairs to the medieval choir stalls at St Mary, Nantwich.
Completed in 1946, the paintings depict the Annunciation and are positioned either side of the east window in the chancel, Mary to the left and Gabriel to the right. They are broadly in the tradition of 14th -century Italian murals, with the figures charmingly situated in the old village setting of Bilborough itself. The paintings were ‘lost’ during the construction of an extension in the 1970s.
Although their possible survival (beneath layers of emulsion) was identified in 1990s, no work was undertaken until they were rediscovered in 2009 by workmen re-wiring the church. The project was not straightforward, requiring the removal of a 1970s ceiling in the chancel. Work on the paintings began in September 2014. The conservation team, Tobit Curteis, Bianca Madden and Claudia Fiochetti carried out initial cleaning and repairs, particularly to areas of the Mary mural where the original painting had sustained water damage. In addition, Gabriel had been marked by graffiti. Conservators Saskia and Joy Huning were also on site during the early weeks of the project to carry out colour matching and make full size templates of the original paintings.
St Edmund, Warkton (Northamptonshire) – conservation of monuments
All Saints, Godshill (Isle of Wight) – repair of window
St Botolph, Botolphs (West Sussex) – repair of roof
The Award is made for the repair or conservation of the fabric, fittings or furnishings of historic churches, chapels or other faith buildings in England or Wales, which remain in use for worship. However, cathedrals of any denomination are not eligible. It is not essential that the building is listed as being of architectural or historic interest. The age or architectural significance of the building is less important than the quality of the repair.
Details on how to enter the John Betjeman Award 2016 will be announced later this year.